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How to Clean and Restore Sneakers Before Selling

How to Clean and Restore Used Sneakers

Preserve Your Sneakers from the Start

When it comes to selling used sneakers, there are plenty of ways you can clean and restore sneakers before selling them, to make sure you can charge top-dollar and get the best price. That said, we should also remember that if you take a few steps to preserve your shoes when you first get them, you may save yourself work down the line.

Remove the Paper from the Box (and keep the box!)

We recommend removing the shoe paper from the box unless you are storing your shoes somewhere else, as the paper’s slight acidity can age your shoes quicker. Quick Note: the original shoe box itself is a great place to store your sneakers because it helps keep the light away from your shoes (light can age your kicks). Either way, if you plan on selling your sneakers always keep the box, and try your best to avoid damaging it. Some resale apps and selling platforms won’t even let you sell your sneakers if you don’t have the undamaged original box. In any case, you can typically charge more if you have the box, so keep it even if your sneakers are not stored inside.

Use Silica Packets to Absorb Moisture and Humidity

A silica gel packet may also help to absorb moisture and preserve your shoes, so feel free to toss one of them in with your kicks. We do the same with the airtight containers that we store apparel that we have already listed for sale. You can buy silica sachets in small and large sizes, or you can start saving the little ones that frequently come inside packages or boxes when you buy something and re-use those instead of tossing them.

Spray Sneakers to Protect Against Stains and the Elements

A great best practice (particularly if you live in an area that snows, but even if you don’t), is to spray your sneakers before you wear them for the first time, with a protectant spray and sealer. Usually, you should repeat this according to the directions, every few months or before winter. This protects them from the elements, makes them easier to clean in the long run, and will prevent things like salt stains or water drop stains (in the case of suede especially).

Wrap Your Sneakers with Plastic Wrap

Many sneaker collectors opt to wrap their kicks in plastic wrap (like Saran Wrap, the kind that you put over your leftovers). This is typically done for dead-stock, or after you have already cleaned and restored your used sneakers (don’t wrap them when they’re dirty). You can even buy special sneaker shrink-fit wrap although it really isn’t necessary. We recommend wrapping them in regular plastic wrap, making sure they are fully sealed. This helps keep the oxygen away from your sneakers because it’s one of the leading causes of sneaker-degradation, and can prevent yellowing, and will help protect their longevity.

Clean Sneakers with Items you Already Have

The first and most important tool you are going to need when it comes to cleaning and restoring used sneakers is simply a bit of water and a paper towel or microfiber cloth. You would be surprised how much you can do with these simple tools, whether it’s getting rid of dust, or cleaning up marks and scuffs. You don’t need the towel to be too damp, and you can then add a toothbrush, or sneaker cleaning brush for the sole, to get into the traction pattern. This will already improve the state of whatever shoe you are cleaning up and is an important first step that is often overlooked.

For the inside of the shoe, a manual lint remover (manual sweater-shaver) can do wonders removing any wear that appears inside the sneaker. If the sneaker has a white fabric inner, particularly if it appears dirty or has some pilling, remove the insole, then gently use a manual lint remover to remove it. The best option is one with a removable head otherwise it be difficult to get all the way inside the sneaker. 

A few other household items that can help you clean and restore your sneakers are: white vinegar, dish detergent, laundry detergent, baking soda, a white eraser, and stain remover.

The Best Sneaker Cleaning Tools and Products

With that being said, sometimes you need a little more oomph, and therefore it’s now time to talk about how you can really transform a used shoe with some incredible products that are on the market today. For a more intense clean, particularly for materials like suede that needs to be looked after and cleaned quite carefully, we recommend using Jason Markk Premium Shoe Cleaner. Color-safe and applicable on almost every sneaker material, just mix the shoe cleaner with some water in a bowl, and use a brush to apply it onto the sneaker. Make sure you tap the brush on the bowl several times before using it to clean your sneakers; this will ensure the brush is not too wet as too much water (or plain water without the cleaner mixed in) can ruin suede for good. Once you have cleaned the shoe, use a towel to dry the shoe and leave it in a cool, dry place.

Resell Genius has tried every shoe and sneaker product under the sun, and we think the following brands make the best sneaker and shoe cleaning products. Our favorite “stand-out” product from each brand is also listed next to its name:

  • ReShoevn8er (Shoe Cleaning Wipes, Sneaker Solution)
  • Jason Markk (Protectant Spray)
  • Crep Protect (Sneaker Wipes, Boot Wipes, Suede Cleaning Kit, Pill)
  • Cole Haan (Protectant Spray)
  • Kiwi (Protectant Spray, White and Black Shoe Polish)
  • Angelus (Leather Cleaner)
  • Fabes (Sole Cleaner)
  • Cadillac Select (Leather Lotion, Leather Cleaner, Leather Water & Stain Protector)

Restore Sneakers with a Yellow Sole

Another very useful way to clean and restore your sneakers with translucent outsoles is to use Fabes Sole Sauce. This sneakerhead-approved fan favorite will get rid of the dreaded yellowing on your sneaker soles. When shoes with translucent soles, like many Air Jordan’s, get old, the soles will start to yellow. But if you can reverse this yellowing, then you can make your shoe stand out from its competition, and you can charge a much higher price. Once you have given the sole a basic clean, get your Fabes Sole Sauce or an equivalent product, and cover the sole in it, getting in all the cracks and ridges. Make sure to keep the cleaner away from the actual shoe and any glued seams. Next, cover it in a clear plastic wrap and put it outside, outsole-up towards the sun. Never leave it for longer than 24 hours before taking the shoe inside and rinsing off the solution. Feel free to repeat this process until you feel like your shoes are back to their original color.

Storing Sneakers After You Clean and Restore

There are tons of ways to store and organize your sneakers after cleaning and restoring them. From wrapping them (as explained in the first paragraph), to storing your sneakers in a temperature controlled wine cellar room (and no we’re not kidding- check out the Complex article we reference below), no matter what length you want to go in order to maintain the hard work you did when cleaning and restoring them, you will want to ensure your sneakers are protected as much as possible from the elements that will age them, namely: acidity, light, humidity, heat, and oxygen. 

One other thing you certainly shouldn’t forget when storing your recently refreshed sneakers, is the final step in your restoration journey… odor elimination and prevention (’cause nobody wants to buy a stinky sneaker!). As a final touch you may want to purchase a Crep Protect Pill. Each box comes with 2 pills that can be inserted into your shoes and will take out any smell that has resulted from wearing them. All you have to do is twist the Pill to activate it, and then leave it in the shoe until you are satisfied with the results. You could also slip a dryer sheet inside each shoe. Doing this as a last step before shipping out your shoes isn’t crucial, but can help secure those top reviews from your clients. 

Finally, you may want to check out this great article from Complex, “Here’s Everything You Need to Know on How to Store Your Sneakers.” It goes over many different storage techniques and tips for storing those coveted kicks, whether you’re storing them as deadstock, actively wearing your collection of sneakers, or have used pairs listed for sale, it provides some useful tips and discusses various sneaker storage options.

Do you have any tried-and-tested tips on how to clean and restore sneakers before selling them? We’d love to hear what has worked best for you in the past. Drop us a comment below!

Did you know that our Resell Genius Kits include the basics for sneaker and shoe restoration? Yep, but that’s just a small piece of the kit. We’ve curated all the must-need reseller tools at huge discounts. Click the button below to have a look.

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